- 343 Industries/Microsoft
- Rumors point to Microsoft detailing the next Xbox later this year, potentially during the annual E3 trade show in June.
- Microsoft started talking about its next line of consoles last June, and it looks as if the next Xbox may launch before the next PlayStation.
- These are the key factors that could determine Microsoft’s success with the next console.
Get ready to say goodbye to the Xbox One – Microsoft is on the verge of a new generation of video game consoles.
The big rumor going around is that Microsoft plans to detail the next Xbox consoles at this year’s big video game trade show, E3, in June. That could be an opportunity to get out ahead of Sony, whose PlayStation 4 dominated the past five years.
So, what does Microsoft have to do to get the Xbox back on top? Here are a few key places to start:
1. More than anything else, Microsoft needs major exclusive games.
- 343 Industries/Microsoft
Say what you will about the relative differences between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 – in the long run, we’ll look back at the two consoles as remarkably similar pieces of hardware.
What differentiates the two mainly is games: Sony simply has more major exclusive games than Microsoft. Whether you’re talking about “Uncharted” or “Bloodborne” or “Spider-Man” or “God of War” or, well, the list could go on and on.
Microsoft has some biggies, like “Halo” and “Forza,” but this generation of consoles was primarily led by Sony because of a consistent stream of excellent, exclusive games.
Things are clearly turning a corner in this regard: Microsoft has major entries in the “Halo” and “Gears of War” franchises in the works, while Sony is outright skipping E3 this year. Microsoft even went as far as to buy up a whole bunch of game studios that are presumably hard at work right now on new, exclusive Xbox games.
All of which is to say one crucially important thing: More than any other factor, Microsoft needs great games, and it needs them coming out at a steady cadence.
“Halo Infinite” coming to Microsoft’s next Xbox may not hurt in this regard – at the very least it could offer a bridge between the Xbox One and whatever’s next, just as “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” did with Nintendo’s Wii U and Switch.
2. Backwards compatibility / a persistent game library.
With few exceptions, new generations of game consoles come with the expectation that anything from the previous system will not work on the new console.
PlayStation 3 games don’t run on the PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Wii U games don’t run on the Nintendo Switch. Such is the way of most game consoles.
With the Xbox One, Microsoft stuck a stake in the ground: The company created a robust backwards-compatibility program, allowing Xbox One owners to play an increasingly large selection of their digital and physical game libraries from previous Xbox consoles.
It set an important precedent: Going forward, Xbox owners should expect their gaming libraries to carry forward.
In the case of the next Xbox, that expectation is rock solid – it would be outright shocking if Microsoft’s next console didn’t play the vast majority of your digital game library from years past. It may not play physical Xbox and Xbox 360 discs, but it’s very likely to work with your digital game library out of the box.
3. Different console options: priced low to high.
More than just something Microsoft needs, there’s a precedent: The Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are both Xbox One consoles, yet the Xbox One X is more powerful (and more expensive).
It stands to reason that Microsoft will continue this strategy with the next version of the Xbox, and it makes sense. Just as Apple has multiple versions of the iPhone, so too does Microsoft have different versions of the Xbox. Why not offer consumers an option?
This will be an especially important distinction as video game streaming technology enables lower-tech, cheaper boxes to power the same blockbuster games that powerful local hardware traditionally powered.
For some people, a powerful console will be worth the higher cost. For many, a set-top-box-like device that can stream games may be enough.
Of note: Microsoft’s Xbox leader, Phil Spencer, spoke of multiple new Xbox consoles when he talked about the future of Xbox hardware last June. Rumors also point to multiple consoles being in development.
4. A continued push into cross-platform play.
First with “Minecraft,” and followed by “Fortnite,” Microsoft’s Xbox has been a trailblazer in so-called cross-platform gaming. The company has championed the idea of playing games with friends across competing platforms.
And why not? “Fortnite” is basically the same game whether you’re playing it on a phone, an Xbox One, a Nintendo Switch, or a PlayStation 4.
It’s been a huge shift for gaming, which has traditionally accepted the concept of siloed platforms for business reasons.
Whether Microsoft will remain dedicated to this concept remains to be seen – it’s the kind of feel-good move with consumers that could be easily forgotten or de-emphasized in the face of sudden success with a new console.
5. It needs to be easy to use.
Though the horsepower of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are on par, there’s one massive difference that anyone can immediately feel from using both: The Xbox One is a muddy, slow, old-feeling game console. Simply navigating the user interface is a chore, to say nothing of its poor organization.
Especially when compared with a modern computer, using the Xbox One feels bad. Though the PlayStation 4 has gotten slower over time, it’s still far, far easier to use than the Xbox One.
It’s plagued the life of the Xbox One – even the ridiculously powerful, ridiculously expensive Xbox One X is slow as molasses to use. That simply should not be. A $500 game console that came out in late 2017 should not feel as slow and old as the Xbox One X does.
This is a base-level, foundational issue that Microsoft needs to nail with its next console.